I’ve written more than a few guides to breaking up with people in a respectable way over the years, but I’d be lying if I told you I often follow my own advice when it comes to “doing the right thing” in dating and relationships. If I did, I’d probably be married or at least off Tinder by now, not to mention considerably less free to write articles about love at 3am.
My biggest personal barrier when it comes to having a healthy love life is my reflex to avoid rejection at all costs. It’s easy to pull this off when it comes to being dumped. I simply try to avoid dating guys I might actually like. When it comes to breaking up with someone or even turning down an invitation for date No. 2, I’m an even bigger a coward – so much so that when I was younger it seemed much more reasonable to claim to be underage instead of fessing up to just being uninterested. Better to make someone believe he’s committed a heinous sex crime punishable by law than to make him feel unattractive, right?
Would it have been easier to tell the truth? Certainly. But given that the truth doesn’t always put an end to the pursuits of determined suitors, it’s easy for romantic cowards like me to believe that avoiding, hiding, and misrepresenting ourselves are also valid options in the ol’ bag of breakup tricks. Given that the internet has made it nearly impossible for anyone to fake his or her own death believably these days, chicken-shits like me need to get more skilled at pushing people away without actually saying how we actually feel. Here’s my guide to brushing someone off… for cowards…
Don’t answer texts or calls from your aspiring love interest right away
If you’re a coward, you would never answer right away no matter what I told you to do, so at least now you feel like you’re off to a good start, right? Good. Cowards need sad, pathetic words of encouragement because it’s easy to hate yourself when you’ve got a text from a date praising your awesomeness and inquiring about seeing you again and you’ve decided you need to watch another episode of The Good Wife before you think of what to say. Feel free to wait around 24 to 36 hours stewing in your own anxiety before answering the message if, like me, you like to believe procrastination will lead you to the courage to do the right thing. It won’t, which is where step No. 2 comes in…
Say you’re in love with someone else
If you’ve waited longer than 36 hours to text back, you’re going to have to really give a Meryl Streep/Daniel Day-Lewis-worthy performance of a lifetime, and that’s going to be hard to pull off properly via text message. (What? Like you were really going to call?) To avoid accusations of rudeness due to text tardiness that could turn into damning rumours that affect your future dating life, I suggest saying something along the lines of, “I apologize for taking so long to get back to you. There’s no excuse, other than I unexpectedly rekindled a romance with an ex after you and I met, and I didn’t know how to say it without coming across as a two-timer.” Even if your one-time date feels hurt, it’s an unwritten rule that society sides with the person who chooses an old flame over a completely new love interest because people weirdly value time-tested co-dependence over the possibility of finding true happiness. Chances are, if you’re a legit coward like me, then you’re probably not even lying when you say that you have strong feelings for someone from the past. If you can’t break things off with someone you don’t like, imagine how horrifically tight-lipped you must be when it comes to admitting your feelings for someone you actually want to be with.
Avoid saying you wish things were different
After you’ve proclaimed your interest in a former lover, don’t give the person you’re brushing off false hope by saying you wish the timing wasn’t so terrible, insinuating that you’d totally give him or her a shot if it wasn’t for your fated need to unbury and rekill the past. Unless, of course, getting messages months down the road after you’ve accidentally provided enough evidence via social media and public displays of unattached behaviour that that’s what you’re hoping to get out of the situation at hand.
Avoid leaving a social media trail to your singleness
If someone has romantic feelings for you or suspects you of being a sociopathic liar, or worse… both, he or she will likely follow you closely on social media looking for insight into your true character and relationship status. Even if you put the highest privacy settings possible on your Facebook and Instagram and avoid Twitter for anything personal, you’re still living in the social media era, which means your less privacy-obsessed friends and acquaintances will be leaving photographic evidence of their whereabouts all over the web. You’re bound to show up in a suggestive photo or tag at some point. If you think scouring the lives of others for mentions of you is too much trouble for the average person, you’ve clearly never had feelings for someone who brushed you off, leaving you confused, hurt, and at the mercy of a puzzle you must both design and piece together. It seems only fair to be honest next time life presents you with the chance to “do the right thing” in love, but on the other hand there wouldn’t entire books dedicated to decoding signals of disinterest and outright rejection if “hint getting” and “truth accepting” were things modern generations were really skilled at when it comes to dating. Maybe we’re all guilty of being a little too self-obsessed – from those of us who fear breaking hearts and having ours broken to those who constantly and relentlessly pursue love even after getting brushed off. That doesn’t make being cowardly more acceptable, but you’re not going to win praise for your breakup skills no matter how kind and considerate you are at executing them. If you ever find a tried-and-true technique, please be a dear and let me know…
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